If there's one European city which has achieved almost legendary status amongst
British gay men, it has to be Amsterdam. It seems to be a city where just about
anything goes and it probably does. The Dutch laws are amongst the most relaxed
in the world when it comes to personal freedom. And there aren't many cities around
the world which can boast that they have a monument dedicated to the struggle for homosexual equality,
and those in the past who've been persecuted for their sexuality.
Amsterdam is a city where you can legally purchase soft drugs such as marijuana
and hash for your own consumption in one of the numerous "coffee shops" in major
streets around the city. There are however harsh penalties for anyone caught illegally dealing. Prostitution
both male and female is entirely legal and is a bigger tourist attraction than the wonderful
Van Gogh museum. Gay couples are everywhere and 15 years ago in 2002 the Dutch became the first nation to make
gay marriage legal. So is it a gay paradise?
Well, yes and no. The canals give the city a wonderfully relaxed air, and with
more museums per sqft than any other country in the world, there are plenty
of artistic pleasures available once the gay scene begins to take it's toll. However accomodation
particularly in Amsterdam's many gay hotels is expensive and standards can be quite
basic. Even the official Dutch tourist board admit that the Damrak, the street which
leads from the Central Station to the Dam Square and the Royal Palace, is one of the
tawdriest in Europe. Outside the Spring and Summer the weather can be cold and wet.
But whatever it's issues Amsterdam is a great place to go if you're gay, and is
a very refreshing answer to conservative countries who believe that publicly recognising
the rights of gay people is likely to lead complete moral decay and the breakdown of all
law and order. Actually Amsterdam is just as safe and law abiding as any other major european city, and it's a good deal more fun!
BARS AND CLUBBING
The Amsterdam gay scene is divided into three areas. Around the Reguliersdwarsstraat
you'll find trendier bars who are continually opening and closing for even trendier
refurbishment. This a great place to go before going out clubbing and has the same
feel as bars in Old Compton or Canal Street. The Soho Bar is one of the best
- it has a relaxed and inviting atmosphere which really could have come straight out of Manchester's
gay village. Just down the street is Exit
a busy club which is gay everynight. It boasts a large
pub on the ground floor, a smallish dancefloor and a very busy backroom. There are
quite a few restaurants in the street popular with a large gay clientele.
In the Spuistraat you can rent just about everything you'll ever need - a bed, a bike or a boy.
If you want great company just head for number 21 in the Spuistraat, Boys Club 21. In
the pleasant bar which has four TV screens you can enjoy a drink and make your choice in a relaxed
The friendly, multilingual and discreet guys are there for your enjoyment and they provide lots of it.
You can rent a variety of rooms in which to relax with them. Every room is equipped with clean towels and sheets, a shower and/or bath,
soap, shampoo, condoms and lubricant. All rooms have a colour television, video and music. It's good value for money,
clean and well run.
Further down the Spuistraat you can find the Gay Tourist Information Center (GAYtic) which offers independent and comprehensive
information on the LGBTQI+ community in Amsterdam.
While in the Spuistraat we'd stop off at Prik a cosy pink bar where you can experience their "Lovely Liquids,
Sexy Snacks & Twisted Tunes". This is one of Amsterdam's best gay bars - it's relaxed and fun, very popular and
extremely pink. This is a bar that's not to be missed.
There's a far more traditional bar scene round the Amstel and the Rembrandtsplein. One
of our favourite bars on the square is the Opera Cafe.
Amstel Fifty Four is one of the oldest gay pubs in Holland and has a
completely disarming naffness, while Montmartre de Paris closer to the Rembrandtsplein
is a place where even Dame Edna would feel at home. Probably best avoided unless
you enjoy a sing-a-long down at your local British Legion.
If you want to spend time in a MAN's bar, you can't go wrong visiting Spijker Bar Amsterdam
which you'll find in the Kerkstraat. Spijker Bar claims that it's the oldest, most friendliest and attitude free gay bar
in Amsterdam. It's been serving the gay community since 1978 and certainly is a cosy bar, popular with a mix of local residents
and visitors to Amsterdam. Alternative music, pool table, traditional pinball, fireplace, fresh flowers on the bar
and two TV's, one showing cartoons and the other showing gay action movies :-)
There's a much heavier leather scene around the Warmoesstraat which can
be found just off the Dam Square down the street from the Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky.
The bars are all around the start of the Red Light District so be prepared to be
the subject of stares from hordes of American and Japanese tourists being herded
through the streets of sex shops and prostitutes in windows. Most of the bars boast
busy backrooms and a leather dress code and look out in particular for Web, Dirty Dicks and Eagle.
Amsterdam is not a big city and the scene tends to reflect this. There are few mega
gay clubs, but plenty of special nights, jack-off parties and backrooms. If you like Manchester
where generally everything gay is within walking distance, you'll love Amsterdam.
Amsterdam Pride, the big parade along the Prinsengracht, is on the first Saturday of August every year, but there's 10 days
of events surrounding it kicking off with the PrideWalk and Pride Park. There's photo exhibitions, club nights, cabaret,
and even a fetish sportswear sneaker party during the week leading up to the canal parade.
Amsterdam Pride is run by a non-profit organisation committed to emancipation, social, legal and social equality and acceptance of gay men, bisexuals and lesbians, and also for those who do not want socially dominant
gender roles or to conform (as masculine women, feminine men and queers) or assume a different physical gender identity throughout their lives (such as transgenders and transsexuals). They believe that to achieve
visibility for diversity is particularly necessary. The primary objective of the Amsterdam Pride Foundation is to organise activities and events in a wide range of diverse public spaces.
LOCAL GAY INFORMATION
If you are looking for infomation, the Pink Point at Westerkerk provides an excellent overview. The friendly team
at this gay tourist information stand are always willing to help with maps, club night listings and insider advice. The Pink Point is open 10:30 to 18:00 every day.
As you'd expect for one of the world's premier gay destinations, Amsterdam boasts
a large number of gay hotels catering for a wide variety of tastes. Prices aren't
cheap and facilities are often basic, though there are some exceptions we've come
Hotel Seven Bridges though not exclusively gay has some stunning rooms.
Amsterdam Hostel Orfeo is a friendly low cost option and has a number of apartments in an annexe which though
clean could do with refurbishment. Worth investigating if you're into leather and S&M is
the Hotel Anco. They are known as the hotel "Where only men check in" and are in the heart of
the red light district in the Warmoesstraat.
Amistad Hotel is also gay and uses the motto "Sleep with us" - you'll find it in the Kerkstraat.
There are the usual selection of international chains and particularly recommended for
those where money is no object are the Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky on Dam Square and the Hotel Pulitzer which is found on the
very beutiful Prinsengracht canal.
Our hotel partners
Bookings are based in Amsterdam and have an outstanding selection of hotels
at special online rates.
Dam Square or the Dam lies in the historical center of the city just south of Centraal Station, at the original location of the
dam in the river Amstel. On the west end of the square is the neoclassical Royal Palace, which served as the city hall from
1655 until its conversion to a royal residence in 1808. The National Monument, a white stone pillar designed by J.J.P. Oud
and erected in 1956 to memorialize the victims of World War II, dominates the opposite side of the square. Overlooking the
plaza is the upscale department store De Bijenkorf. If you have money to spend they offer many beautiful items to tempt you.
The Van Gogh Museum has a world-beating collection of Van Gogh originals in a
stunning building. The pictures are displayed without glass so you can really appreciate the texture of
his work. It's extremely popular so be prepared to queue unless you get there early. The Anne Frank House
has a moving collection of photographs from the Nazi era and you can see exactly how Anne and her family hid
during the Occupation before being discovered and being murdered in a concentration camp.
Right next to the house in Westermarkt, the market square, is the church mentioned by Anne Frank in her diaries. It's
called Westerkerk and it opens to the public several mornings a week. It's a truly stunning building noted for it's inclusivity,
that follows the calvinist tradition - a mixture of catholic, protestant and jewish religions. It's a great church for a gay wedding, they welcome everyone with open arms.
The Rijksmuseum is the national museum of the Netherlands dedicated to Dutch arts and history. There are many paintings by
Rembrandt on display here, as there are at The Rembrandt House Museum a few streets away in the Jodenbreestraat. The painter
lived and worked in the house between 1639 and 1656 and it's 17th-century interior has been lovingly reconstructed.
|Outside is Homomonument, a beautiful
modern memorial which commemorates all gay men and lesbians who have been subjected to persecution because of their homosexuality.
Opened on 5 September 1987, it takes the form of three large pink triangles made of granite, set into the ground so as to form a larger triangle, on
the bank of the Keizersgracht canal.
The Homomonument was designed to "inspire and support lesbians and gays in their struggle against denial,
oppression and discrimination." It was the first monument in the world to commemorate gays and lesbians who were killed by the Nazis.
The design is by Karin Daan, based on the pink triangle sign used by the Nazi's to signify the sexuality of gays in the death camps.
As well as the triangle on the canal, which has a set of steps leading to the water where floral wreaths are frequently laid, there is a triangle
on land 60 cm high and a memorial triangle at street level.
The three triangles each measuring 10 meters (30 ft) on each side together form a larger
triangle connected on each side by a thin row of pink granite bricks. The alignments of the three points of the larger triangle are symbolic. One
points towards the National War Memorial on Dam Square. One points towards the house of Anne Frank, and the third points towards the headquarters
of COC Nederland, the Dutch gay rights group founded in 1946, making it the oldest continuously operating gay and lesbian organisation in the world.
Sauna Nieuwezijds at the Nieuwezijds Armsteeg 95 is a stylish and cruisy sauna that's open every day. It offers
a fully licensed bar with lounge, Jacuzzi, Turkish bath, Finnish sauna, private cabins, smoker's lounge and ample relaxing and very busy cruising space.
They have a no towel night on Tuesdays and a Bears night on the last Saturday of the month for bears, daddies, chasers, chubs and their admirers.
It's worth noting that both of Amsterdam's well known Thermos Saunas - the Day Sauna and Night Sauna, have been closed down.
This advice comes from the Dutch Tourist Office and others -
Don't stand in a bike lane. You'll only get mown down.
Don't bring a car into the centre.
Not only is parking difficult and expensive, the clampers don't distinguish between foreign
or Dutch cars.
Don't ride a tram without a ticket. For most tourists, day or multiple day tickets are the best deal. They
entitle you to unlimited travel through Amsterdam, day and night by GVB-operated tram, bus and metro. Whilst you can buy tickets on some
trams you are better off buying in advance from newsagents, train stations, post-offices and
other outlets. Getting caught by the (admittedly infrequent) spot checks will set you hefty fine and ruin your trip.
Don't buy drugs in the street. Don't ever buy hard drugs on the streets
which you'll be probably be offered frequently. What's sold as coke is usually washing powder or caffeine,and
what they sell as ecstasy might be anything.
Don't stand in a bike lane. It's worth saying again! You really will get mown down by cyclists who stop for nothing.
THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK
Amistad Hotel (Kerkstraat 42; T: 020 624 8074; Website)
Amstel Fifty Four (Amstel 54; T: 06 12232254; Website)
Amsterdam Hostel Orfeo (Leidsekruisstraat 12-14; T: 020 623 1347; Website)
Amsterdam Pride (Website)
Anco (HOTEL ANCO) (Oudezijds Voorburgwal 55; T: 020 624 1126; Website)
Anne Frank House (Anne Frank Huis) (Westermarkt 20; T: 020 556 7105; Website)
Bar Exit (Reguliersdwarsstraat 42; T: 06 82363649; Website)
Boysclub 21 (Spuistraat 21; T: 020 622 8828; Website)
de Bijenkorf Amsterdam (Dam 1; ,T: 020 808 9333; Website)
Dirty Dick's (Warmoesstraat 86; Website)
Eagle Amsterdam (Warmoesstraat 90; Website)
GAYtic (Spuistraat 44; T: 020 330 1461; Website)
Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky (Dam 9; T: 020 499 0163; Website)
Homomonument (Westermarkt; Website)
Hotel Seven Bridges (Reguliersgracht 31; T: 020 623 1329; Website)
Montmartre de Paris (Halvemaansteeg 17; T: 06 52004763; Website)
Pink Point (Westermarkt t/o 9; T: 020 428 1070; Website)
PRIK (Spuistraat 109; T: 06 19653239; Website)
Pulitzer Amsterdam (Prinsengracht 323; T: 020 523 5235; Website)
Rembrandt House Museum (Jodenbreestraat 4; T: 020 520 0400; Website)
Rijksmuseum (Museumstraat 1; T: 020 674 7000; Website)
Sauna Nieuwezijds (Nieuwezijds Armsteeg 95; T: 020 331 8327; Website)
SOHO Amsterdam (SoHo) (Reguliersdwarsstraat 36; Website)
Spijker Bar Amsterdam (Kerkstraat 4; Website)
The Web (Sint Jacobsstraat 6; T: 020 623 6758; Website)
Van Gogh Museum (Museumplein 6; T: 020 570 5200; Website)
Westerkerk (Prinsengracht 279; T: 020 624 7766; Website)
Revised July 2023.